Interiors Buildings Cities

The House in the City

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Design Studio:
The House in the City
Coordinator: Susanne Pietsch

MSc1 is structured as a series of parallel studios, run by a dynamic mix of practitioners and academics and collectively concerned with interpretations of a common theme, the House in the City. Understood ambiguously, as in the German Haus, the concerns of the course are not the representative monuments of culture, nor the private houses of individuals.

Instead, projects explore those buildings that stand between, housing our collective urban life and oscillating, in our consciousness, between foreground and background. Carefully wrought, spatially rich, generous and adaptable, such buildings have the capacity to evolve over time and to engage in a territory that might encompass both extended domestic and intimate public life. As discrete elements, subservient to a larger whole, they play small but significant roles in structuring urban fabric and defining urban space, simultaneously taking pleasure in the heterogeneity of the contemporary city and bringing it into order.

Through individual projects, each studio addresses how such city houses might be made, experienced and inhabited, in time and space and in response to the particularities of place. Through careful drawing and iterative making, their individual characters emerge in a welcoming interior, through a moment of figuration or in the refinement of a façade.

There are 2 studios:
Studio 1: The Exterior in the Interior
Studio 2: The People’s House

Studio 1: The Exterior in the Interior
Tutors: Marius Grootveld, Susanne Pietsch
Sequence and ritual in space, materialization and detail.

The city is a structure through which you pass from space to space. Every building has a sequence, from its harsh public exterior, along its articulated collective spaces, to its intimate and private interior. It is this sequence, articulated in architecture, that allows us to practice a wide variety of relations to the people around us. Each step in the sequence demands a specific intimacy and conduct. In the movement through public to private spaces, we relate to the larger public, to selected groups and to private individuals. The richer the sequence is as it is articulated from public to private, the more nuanced the variety of actions and relations a building allows. This sequence is often related to a specific hierarchy that is also present in an organization or in society itself. Habits and conventions play out as rituals within the building. 

But is the interior always inside and the exterior always outside? What happens to the sequence when these notions start to shift and the exterior continues through to the inside? The reversed premise, of interior detailing outside, is equally intriguing. How can we use this idea to enrich the story a building tells as one passes through it? What are the connotations that make them so familiar to us? What makes a detail or materialization specifically public, collective or private? What makes a detail interior or an exterior in character? How do we design the passage of one realm to the next? And how are all these aspects informing the uses and rituals occurring in the building?

This studio aims to look for new ways to represent architectural spaces and sequence in imagery. Today, the image seems to be more about a reality of the visible rather than a reality of experience. We tend to be more concerned with a world as seen through the cameras lens than one seen through our mind's eye. This has consequences for our discourse. The visual attraction of a building tends to be given a primary role, while important architectural experiences central in this course––such as sequence, movement, time and memory––become less present. This causes a great disruption between the experience of the image and that of reality. We will look for ways to incorporate these values back into our imagery, thereby gaining a deeper understanding of our buildings.

The objects of study and the site for our project will be the colleges of Oxford. A place with a thin sliver of public life, yet a rich system of collective and private spaces. We will analyze the existing sequences in the city and how they run through quads, chambers, chapels and dining halls, and how they alternate from the exterior to interior in unorthodox and rich ways. The design project consists of a student fraternity: a function that is introverted in relation to its surroundings, but contains a very complex network of hierarchies and rituals on the inside, in which sequences of spaces will be key.

Studio 2: The People’s House
Tutors: Jeffrey Bolhuis, Leontine de Wit
The subject for this MSc1 studio is the design of a community house set within the context of the 19th century belt of Amsterdam.

Following the industrial revolution, the population of Amsterdam started to grow rapidly after centuries of stagnation. The burgeoning working class population was housed in a 19th century city expansion just outside the historical city center. The working and living conditions for the working class were generally very poor and it is also at this time that the first People's House were established as the type was strongly connected to the developing Labor movement. The first community house in The Netherlands - then referred to as a "Volkshuis" - was named "Ons Huis" ("Our House") and was  built in 1892 in  Amsterdam.

In contemporary Amsterdam these 19th century neighborhoods are once again undergoing a dramatic change. A growing population, increase in tourism and subsequent rising house prices are swiftly changing the demographic buildup of these areas and affecting the social structures and cohesion in the neighborhoods. The assignment of creating a new People's house in this charged arena raises timely questions regarding the role architecture can play within these complex social, economic and cultural developments.

For the design of the community house we will draw upon the historical type of the People's houses in regard to its representation and use. The original Maison du Peuple were established as a place of social gathering and enlightenment for the working class. They typically consisted out of a collection of varying rooms,    accommodating a very diverse range of activities including classes, meetings, lectures and performances. The investigation into appropriate range of interiors, and the activities therein, for the contemporary community house will form part of the exercise.

Expanding on the original type of the Volkshuis, the design will create an inviting range of interiors, whilst its facade projects an open and cohesive identity towards the street. The building will also play a role in bringing together the often disparate and layered elements of the urban fabric in the contemporary 19th century neighborhood, as it has been altered during the course of the last century.

The type of the Volkshuis is based on gathering of people in a public interior for the undertaking of communal activities. The design of the building will prove to be economic and multifunctional whilst providing a welcoming and harmonious atmosphere in which a diversity of public life can unfold.

You need to enroll under the main course code for the House in the City (AR1Ai010). The choice for individual studios within the theme is made during the Assembly at the beginning of the semester.

Fundamentals I
Coordinator: Susanne Pietsch

This course aims to develop skills in the appraisal and understanding of common considerations and problems in architectural design, particularly in the architecture of the interior and architecture made in relation to existing structures and urban conditions. Methods are used that join processes of observation and analysis with processes of making design–– particular to complex buildings and interiors––in seminars and tutorials.


Fundamentals II
Coordinator: Mark Pimlott

Purpose of this course is to deepen students’ knowledge and understanding of the public, urban interior in relation to the design project. This semester students will develop an indiviual research trajectory adjacent to their own design project. Students will apply the tools and methods from the Fundamentals I according to their personal research themes. 

The compulsory general courses of the MSc1 Architecture that run alongside our programme are:

Delft Seminars on Building Technology

Delft Lectures on Architectural Design

Delft Lectures on Architectural History